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6 pivotal moments in open source history

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Here's how open source developed from a printer jam solution at MIT to a major development model in the tech industry today

 

Open source has taken a prominent role in the IT industry today. It is everywhere from the smallest embedded systems to the biggest supercomputer, from the phone in your pocket to the software running the websites and infrastructure of the companies we engage with every day. Let's explore how we got here and discuss key moments from the past 40 years that have paved a path to the current day.

 

1. RMS and the printer

 

In the late 1970s, Richard M. Stallman (RMS) was a staff programmer at MIT. His department, like those at many universities at the time, shared a PDP-10 computer and a single printer. One problem they encountered was that paper would regularly jam in the printer, causing a string of print jobs to pile up in a queue until someone fixed the jam. To get around this problem, the MIT staff came up with a nice social hack: They wrote code for the printer driver so that when it jammed, a message would be sent to everyone who was currently waiting for a print job: "The printer is jammed, please fix it." This way, it was never stuck for long.

 

In 1980, the lab accepted a donation of a brand-new laser printer. When Stallman asked for the source code for the printer driver, however, so he could reimplement the social hack to have the system notify users on a paper jam, he was told that this was proprietary information. He heard of a researcher in a different university who had the source code for a research project, and when the opportunity arose, he asked this colleague to share it—and was shocked when they refused. They had signed an NDA, which Stallman took as a betrayal of the hacker culture.

 

The late '70s and early '80s represented an era where software, which had traditionally been given away with the hardware in source code form, was seen to be valuable. Increasingly, MIT researchers were starting software companies, and selling licenses to the software was key to their business models. NDAs and proprietary software licenses became the norms, and the best programmers were hired from universities like MIT to work on private development projects where they could no longer share or collaborate.

 

As a reaction to this, Stallman resolved that he would create a complete operating system that would not deprive users of the freedom to understand how it worked, and would allow them to make changes if they wished. It was the birth of the free software movement.....

 

https://opensource.c...ory-open-source

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